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How Low Self-Esteem & Insecurity Can Cause Anger

Learn how low self-esteem and insecurity can cause anger from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


I'm Ryan Fuller. I'm a clinical psychologist, and I practice in New York City. I'm going to talk to you a little bit about the role of pride or self-esteem in anger and aggression.

So what's been purported in lots and lots of book and certainly by even teachers and parents and all kinds of adults and children alike across time is the idea that aggression and bullying and these kinds of things are a function of low self-esteem. Well it turns out this might be a myth. So interestingly, if we look at anger from an ABC Model where A is an activating event; and B is a belief about that event or the other person; and C are the emotional consequences like anger; oftentimes what happens is we have someone who comes in to a situation, and they're insulted. And that would be the activating event where they perceive an insult having occurred, and their ego is threatened. Their self-esteem, for instance, is threatened. And they believe that shouldn't happen. They have to protect that, and it might mean that they are not a good person. Maybe, they're worth less if they don't prove themselves in that situation, and that oftentimes can lead to anger and aggression.

So interestingly, even though all along we believed self-esteem is the thing we need more of, the evidence turns out that the higher our self-esteem, in fact, the farther we have to fall. And in fact, that concept of self-esteem might be quite dangerous. So if I really believe I'm very, very, very good, I may be in fact more sensitive to insults. And in fact, I might really try to protect my identity anytime I perceive a potential sly. It could even be an ambiguous situation. I may be more prone to be aggressive.

Whereas someone with low self-esteem - although they might want to protect their own identity, they don't value themselves very much - it's less like that they're going to perceive an insult to be in fact lower than they already value themselves. So in fact, the idea that self-esteem is tied to aggression might actually be the case, but it might be that it's high self-esteem, that's sort of fragile or unstable, that's really the issue, not low self-esteem.

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